Arrests in deadly firebombing of Palestinian home

Children stand in the burnt home of the Dawabsheh family before the funeral ceremony of Riham, who died of her injuries more than one month after the arson attack by suspected Jewish extremists that killed her 18-month-old baby Ali and her husband Saad, 7 September.

Yotam Ronen ActiveStills

Israel has arrested two youths suspected of firebombing a Palestinian home and killing three members of the Dawabsha family in the occupied West Bank village of Duma in July.

A gag order was placed on the investigation following the arrests earlier this week, but a police spokesperson confirmed on Thursday that two young men had been arrested.

The spokesperson said multiple arrests were made related to different attacks. The Electronic Intifada has confirmed that two arrests have been made specifically in the Dawabsha killings.

The suspects, whose names Israeli media are still withholding due to the gag order, are Hanoch Ganiram, 19, and Elisha Odess, who is a minor.

The pair have been interrogated but not yet charged.

Israel responsible

On 31 July, a firebomb was thrown into the Dawabsha family home, causing fatal injuries to 18-month-old Ali and critically injuring his parents, Saad and Riham, who later died from their injuries.

Ali’s four-year-old brother, Ahmad, the only survivor, remains hospitalized.

After news of the arrests, Hussein Dawabsha, Riham’s father, told the Ma’an News Agency that he holds the Israeli government responsible for the attack.

“The case is still not clear as no Israeli official updated me on the case and I knew about the arrest from journalists,” he said.

Honenu, a legal organization that defends Israeli soldiers and civilians accused of attacking Palestinians, has petitioned a court in the Israeli city of Petah Tikva to lift the gag order.


Immediately following the attack, Israel placed three Jewish extremists under administrative detention. This practice of detaining people without charge or trial is regularly used against Palestinians but rarely against Jews.

While the three settlers, Meir Ettinger, Mordechai Meyer and Eviatar Slonim, had a history of attacks on Palestinians, they were not explicitly accused in the Dawabsha case.

A month after those arrests, Israeli defense minister Moshe Yaalon admitted the army knew who had committed the lethal torching of the Dawabsha home but had not taken any legal action “in order to protect the identity of their sources.”

Yaalon said the three had been placed under administrative detention to prevent future attacks.

It is now clear that the suspects in the Dawabsha killings – Ganiram and Odess – were only arrested within the last week.


On 19 October the Israeli army ordered Ganiram to remain under house arrest in Hebron, a city in the occupied West Bank.

According to Israel’s Ynet, he was arrested on 1 December when he left his house to attend a wedding.

Ganiram’s grandfather, Yitzhak Ganiram, was a member of the Jewish Underground, a violent extremist group that conducted a series of attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank in the 1980s, including planting bombs in the cars of officials.

The elder Ganiram was sentenced to seven years in prison for several plots, including a scheme to blow up the Dome of the Rock at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound. He was pardoned by Israel’s president after serving only three months, Ynet reported.

Israel has come under increasing pressure to find the culprits of the attack in Duma. In November, Esawi Frej, a member of the Israeli parliament for the left-Zionist Meretz party, petitioned the high court to demand indictments against the perpetrators.

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, has repeatedly condemned the slow investigation.


In rare cases when indictments are issued, Israel has an extremely low conviction rate for attacks on Palestinians perpetrated by Israeli Jews.

The human rights group Yesh Din found that between 2005 and 2015, 85 percent of cases of settler crimes against Palestinians and their property in the West Bank were not resolved by Israeli police. This rose to 96 percent for damage and destruction to Palestinian trees and crops.

Yesh Din documented a near doubling of settler assaults on Palestinians and their property in the last two years.

Following the Duma attack, Avi Dichter, the former head of Israel’s Shin Bet secret police, told Al-Monitor that “Shin Bet is well aware of how to map out who the leading figures are. The difficulty has always been to translate the intelligence into evidence.”

“Today, when someone wants to throw a Molotov cocktail, he knows that he isn’t really risking anything, because punishment for that barely exists,” he added.

Hussein Dawabsha believes it is this impunity that killed his daughter, son-in-law and grandson: “The Israeli government is the one who gave settlers a license to kill by giving them freedom to enter Palestinian villages.”